Don’t let reopening debates distract from what’s most important in education: Parents

Stakeholders are fighting over what’s going to be best for children and their education this fall, whether it’s home-schooling pods, normal classrooms, online schooling, or something else. But these conversations ignore what’s most important: Empowering parents or guardians and getting them engaged.



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Rather than any particular education model, research shows students need relationships, positive parental or guardian relationships, in particular, to develop well. No matter which educational option families choose, studies show that positive parental involvement drives student success academically, physically, and socially. Luckily, these relationships can happen no matter the educational setting. In fact, when given options, parents tend to be more actively involved in their child’s learning.

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Parents who listen and provide support and guidance, as opposed to those who rely solely on schools, raise well-adjusted children. Parents should make their involvement apparent because students succeed when they feel their parents are involved, whether they’re in public school or in home schooling. One study found students thought parents were involved when they regularly asked about school work, regularly supported them with school work, and regularly volunteered at school. Even simple activities such as reading bedtime stories set students up for literacy and educational success in the long term. Christina Clark wrote:

“The benefits of parental involvement [in early literacy] extend beyond the realm of literacy and educational achievement. Studies show that children whose parents are involved show greater social and emotional development, including more resilience to stress, greater life satisfaction, greater self-direction and self-control, greater social adjustment, greater mental health, more supportive relationships, greater social competence, more positive peer relations, more tolerance, more successful marriages, and fewer delinquent behaviors.”

While funding, curriculum choices, and teacher training are all important aspects of a child’s education, it’s relationships that most dramatically shape a student’s life.

Since parental involvement is so important, public policies that drive parental involvement should be encouraged. As it turns out, having educational options incentivizes parents to seek out information about educational options.

If parents have few education alternatives for their children, they tend not to research the education that is available to them as closely. On the contrary, having choices encourages parents to inform themselves of what’s available to them and what their children may respond best to. In a study on how school choice affects parental behavior, Michael F. Lovenheim and Patrick Walsh concluded that having public school options increases demand for information on school quality.

Not only are parents more likely to seek out information, but options can also increase parental involvement and satisfaction with their child’s education. In Washington, D.C., school choice programs motivated 24% of public school principals to encourage positive parental involvement so students would remain at their school. Parents who used the school choice programs subsequently reported higher levels of involvement. In Florida, 89% of randomly selected parents whose children participated in the McKay Scholarship Program were satisfied with their child’s school. Only 71% of public school parents were satisfied.

Right now, pandemic pods are gaining popularity because of COVID-19. This should be good news because it means that many parents are assuming a more active role in their child’s learning. But because wealthier parents have the resources to pay more for teachers, these pandemic pods may be inherently inequitable. While a real concern, it overlooks a clear solution.

If education funding went straight to low-income families for use on pandemic pods, they could afford an excellent and safe option for their children, too. Funding families empowers parents to get engaged and provide the schooling they want for their children, regardless of their socioeconomic status or work circumstances. This wouldn’t only allow for more equitable access to pandemic pods, but it would encourage equity across school options, be they private, public, or home-based.

The bottom line is that empowering more parents with greater ownership over their child’s education may be one of the most effective ways to keep students on track during the pandemic. And even after the dust settles, the best thing families can do for students will still be to support them, check in on them, and learn with them — regardless of their environment.

Emilie Schulze (@ejoans27) is a senior music history and pedagogy student at Cedarville University in Ohio.

Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Blog Contributors, Education, School Choice, Parenting, Students, Teachers

Original Author: Emilie Schulze

Original Location: Don’t let reopening debates distract from what’s most important in education: Parents

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